Left-wing extremists ‘planning to disrupt Jerusalem Day march’

June 5, 2016  

Jerusalem District Police Commander Yoram Halevi told a court in the capital that left-wing extremists planned to disrupt the annual Jerusalem Day Flag Dance (Rikudgalim) through the Old City today.

“We have intelligence on left-wing activists who want to disturb (the march),” Halevi told the Supreme Court during a hearing regarding a petition by leftist groups for the march to be canceled.

The commander expressed confidence that his officers could handle the planned disruptions, while securing the marchers as they pass through majority-Arab areas.

The hearing was called in response to petitions by the extreme-left Ir Amim NGO and leftist groups, which each year appeal to the courts to cancel the Rikudgalim, claiming celebrations of Israel’s liberation of Jerusalem constitutes a “provocation” to Arab residents.

This year’s Rikudgalim comes at a particularly sensitive time, as Jerusalem Day falls on the eve of Ramadan – a time of increased incitement to violence in mosques throughout the country.

As usual, the NGOs took their case all the way to the Supreme Court, which ultimately ruled in favor of the march taking place, while accepting police recommendations to force organizers to begin an hour earlier to avoid clashing with Ramadan.

Judge Elyakim Rubenstein voiced his concern over the event, but noted that it is a longstanding tradition which cannot simply be cancelled.

Rubenstein did, however, question why the rally was not being moved to even earlier in the day, to avoid even the slightest possibility of Jewish marchers coming into contact with Muslims on their way to evening Ramadan prayers.

Attorney Avinoam Segel, representing the State, responded that marchers were due to pass through the Damascus Gate at 6:30 p.m., and insisted it was the responsibility of police to ensure all are dispersed in time.

Damascus Gate has in the past been the scene of friction between Jewish marchers and Arab locals on Jerusalem Day. In recent months, it has also been a hotbed of Arab terrorism, with dozens of stabbings and other attacks and attempted attacks on police and Jewish civilians.

Judges also viewed a short minute-and-a-half clip edited by Ir Amim, showing alleged racist chants by Jewish nationalist marchers, and urged police to take a stricter line with marchers in response.

However Segel noted that the existence of a single, very short clip from so many years of marches simply proved that the leftist NGOs were blowing the issue out of all proportion.

He did however support tougher measures against any racist chanters, and called on police to enforce a zero-tolerance policy against such rhetoric.

Responding to concerns that police will not be able to secure the event, Police Commander Halevi insisted his force were more than capable of doing so.

Marchers would be moved swiftly on from Damascus Gate, he insisted, with the aid of 1,200 police officers and an additional 400 civilian ushers.

“There will be 1,200 police at the event. We are present in Jerusalem at tens of events. The Temple Mount will be full of Jews, (the prophet) Samuel’s Tomb will be filled with Jews, and with numbers like these we in the Jerusalem Police will be able to secure this event together with 400 ushers.”

He further noted that with Ramadan set to begin at 7:45 p.m., there would be plenty of time for police to ensure the area is cleared of marchers if the Rikudgalim was rescheduled for an hour earlier as requested by police.

“They don’t all run to the Temple Mount immediately,” he said of Muslim worshipers heading to the Al Aqsa Mosque, estimating that it usually takes around an hour for the first worshipers to arrive.

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